Departure Memos

Here at Above the Law, we love a good departure memo. Usually, the best ones are written by disgruntled lawyers (whether partners or associates).

But today we’ve got an amazing departure memo, currently making the rounds by email in certain legal circles. This farewell message was reportedly written by the (former) marketing director for the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo LLP, located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It’s great. The former marketer knows where all the bodies are buried (bodies = hilarious email threads). And she’s in marketing, so she’s good with words.

Really, anytime you can make your boss look like the Material Lawyer when he’s trying to get tickets to a Madonna concert, you’ve found a way to express yourself on your way out the door…

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Tom Wallerstein

The attrition rate in Biglaw is legendary. Since the recession hit, associates are less likely to voluntarily abandon a six-figure job and more often believe that you don’t get up and go until they throw you out the door. On the other hand, since the recession hit, associates are less likely to have any choice in the matter should their firm feel the need to reduce headcount. But especially during the boom years when I began practicing, associates frequently left their firm gigs to do all manner of things, from going in-house, to starting a private practice, to hiking across the country, or moving to Nepal.

I worked in large and medium-sized firms for nearly a decade, and during my tenure, I saw an awful lot of associates come and go. Rarely if ever was I surprised to hear the news. In fact, I was usually surprised that others were surprised. In my experience, there are certain tell-tale signs that an associate is crafting a farewell email….

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If you look back at the great law firm departure memos of years past, you’ll see that almost all of them were written by associates. When partners leave Biglaw, they tend to do so in rather staid fashion, presumably because they have less to complain about (although query whether that’s always the case; see, e.g., A Partner’s Lament).

Every now and then, you’ll come across a colorful farewell message penned by a partner. One such email, sent out last Friday by a longtime partner leaving a major law firm, is now making the rounds. Here’s a teaser: “I have realized that I cannot simultaneously meet the demands of career and family. Without criticizing those who have chosen lucre over progeny, let me just say that I am leaving the practice of law.”

Wow. So who’s the partner in question, which firm did he just leave with such flair, and what’s he planning to do next?

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Tyler Coulson's dog, Mabel.

Do you remember our Lawyer of the Month for March, Tyler Coulson? In case you don’t, he’s the former Sidley Austin Chicago associate who decided that he’d rather take his dog on a cross-country walk than do another day of lawyering. Before leaving, Coulson sent what was described by a fellow Sidley source as the “coolest ‘f**k you I quit’ email” ever:

Today is my last day at Sidley. You may keep in touch with me at [email protected], through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tyler.coulson, or via Twitter, @ibuildnosystem.

Beginning next week, I am walking from Delaware to California with a tent and my dog, Mabel. I will have limited access to email, but will check messages frequently.

Geo. Tyler Coulson

On March 9, 2011, Coulson began his journey in Delaware with his pooch Mabel, in the hopes of making it to California by September. So, inquiring minds at Above the Law want to know: What the heck happened to Coulson and man’s best friend?

Did he have to pull any crazy Bear Grylls maneuvers, like creating his own “sheeping” bag for warmth? Did he have to hack off his own arm with a dull blade, like in 127 Hours? To find out if Coulson’s story turned out anything like Into the Wild, read on….

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The economy must be heating up, because lawyers are leaving their jobs to do all kinds of crazy things. I mean, maybe the legal economy is still crappy, since these people aren’t leaving for other legal jobs. But there must be a general sense of optimism if all of these people have decided to just “walk the Earth,” as it were.

We had the guy who decided to quit Sidley to walk across the country. I’m following him on Twitter. He’s near the Chesapeake and his feet hurt. Then we had the guy who left Skadden to move to Nepal.

Now we’ve got a person who is leaving her Biglaw job to take photos. No, she doesn’t have a job or anything, but she wants one!

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A view of Kathmandu (via The Kathmanduo).

On Wednesday we wrote about the great departure email sent out by Brian Emeott, a former corporate associate at Skadden in Chicago. Emeott, a 2004 graduate of Harvard College and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, picked up and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Brian’s wife, Claudine Emeott, resigned from her own job in December and moved to Kathmandu in January. She’s in Nepal to advance a worthy cause: as a Kiva Fellow, Claudine is working with a local microfinance institution for three months.

In our original post, we applauded the Emeotts for their sense of adventure. You can follow them at their (excellent) blog, The Kathmanduo, as they “work, write, and photograph [their] way through beloved Nepal.”

Some of our commenters, however, were more skeptical. They wondered (and so did we): How are the Emeotts making this work, in financial terms? Are they trust fund babies?

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Chicago looks nice -- why is everyone fleeing?

Young lawyers of Chicago: What the heck is going on with you people? You seem to be losing it. Has the brutal Chicago winter driven you crazy? Do we need to put The People’s Therapist on the next plane to O’Hare?

Let’s look at the evidence. You’re quitting prestigious and lucrative law firm jobs to hike across the country with dogs. You’re getting involved in embarassing litigation with your ex-fiances (after allegedly hooking up with shady Vegas ladies named “Danielle”).

And you’re leaving Chicago — a city with excellent shopping and superb restaurants (I was at Alinea a few weeks ago, and it was amazing) — to go “find yourselves.” In the Himalayas.

Check out this latest departure memo, from an associate who just left Skadden….

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Wake up, Mabel - it's time for your walk.

Reading law firm departure memos is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

Sometimes you taste bitterness. Sometimes the flavor is spicy hot. Sometimes you get a little Costa Rica crunch.

And sometimes you get… this, which was sent to everyone at Sidley Austin yesterday by an associate leaving the Chicago office:

Today is my last day at Sidley. You may keep in touch with me at [email protected], through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tyler.coulson, or via Twitter, @ibuildnosystem.

Beginning next week, I am walking from Delaware to California with a tent and my dog, Mabel. I will have limited access to email, but will check messages frequently.

Geo. Tyler Coulson

The Forrest Gump translation: “Once was a time when me and Sidley was like peas and carrots — not anymore. I’m not a smart man, but I do know what quitting is.”

One Sidley tipster had this reaction: “[T]he greatest reason to leave big law ever. Please keep my name and email anonymous, as I have no ambitions to leave my firm to walk across the nation.”

Said a second Sidley source: “Coolest ‘f**k you I quit’ email…. Note the ‘High’ importance.”

But is it really a total “f**k you” message? We reached out to Tyler Coulson, and he had a perfectly reasonable explanation….

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As I mentioned on Friday, today is my last day as a daily contributor at Above the Law. I’m off to write about The Not-So Private Parts for Forbes.

It’s been two and a half years since my first post for ATL. What have I learned about lawyers since? After the jump is a list of the top five things I’ve come to understand about the Esquired class.

Since I can’t find an inflatable slide here in the Above the Law offices, I’ve found inspiration in another viral departure story

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Here at Above the Law, we’re used to seeing funny and fiery departure memos. But the one we were forwarded last night is truly a special treat.

Here’s the set up. The memo comes out of a small firm in the Atlanta area. It was written by a paralegal — we’ll call her “Blaze of Glory.” She had some very pointed things to say about one of the associates, who we’ll call “Attila.” A partner at the firm, “My Name is Pitt,” is also referenced in the memo. All the rest of the backstory comes from a tipster:

I am told that the ENTIRE firm was blind copied when this email was sent. Now there’s only about 20 or so attorneys at this firm, however, the firm also includes about [a much larger number of] paralegals/legal assistants. A few words cannot describe this email; you just have to read the email to believe it.

Oh, this is going to be fun …

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